Next month, NBC.com is launching a new service, called NBC Direct, to allow users to download full episodes of NBC shows directly to their desktops.
Using NBC Direct, due out for Windows PCs (no mac support?! what is this 1995?) in October, will eventually be like setting your Tivo’s Season Pass in that you can “subscribe” to a show once then automatically receive it each week. The software client will store each ad-supported episode for up to one week, after which the license expires.
Heroes, The Office, Life, Bionic Woman, 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno will be available at launch.
Future plans include developing DRM-protected versions of shows that can be downloaded to an iPod, installing a P2P system to enable high definition downloads and experimentation with download-to-own, rental and subscription models.
But is this really what consumers want? Chris Crotty, an analyst for iSuppli, an independent firm that analyzes electronic media, said of the NBC move, “I think it’s a stretch.” He argued that consumers have shown they are extremely happy with the iTunes service and that it would not be attractive to consumers to have to range far and wide over a number of services to find the programs they want to download.
“It’s not just a shift from a supermarket to a mom-and-pop story, it’s a shift to one store that only sells bread, another store that only sells dairy products. The consumers have decided they want to get their content from iTunes.”
Will NBC Direct add up to a significant number of downloads? Who knows. But by trying different approaches like Hulu, Amazon Unbox and NBC Direct, NBC will be able to find out.